My View From The Other Side Of The Counter: Funny Food Service Job Mishaps


I have spent my fair share of time in the customer service industry. I served coffee for one month and acted as a hotel housekeeper for two. I worked a front desk role for various companies over the course of three years. I made banana splits behind the Dairy Queen counter on and off for seven years.

Needless to say, I’ve seen it all: The couple making out in between giving their respective orders. People who speak too quietly. People who speak too fast. Customers who bring in their own ingredients and fly off the handle when you say you can’t use their food.

Working in customer service introduced me to some common practices of the unknowing customer – the customer who has never once taken an order or lived by the “service with a smile” mantra. My time at Dairy Queen specifically sparked some reoccurring mishaps.

As someone with a view from the other side of the counter, allow me to lay down some ground rules for how to avoid  these situations:

The restaurant is out of what you wanted to order

Nothing last forever (except a bad haircut). Sometimes, places simply run out of what you wanted to order and there is nothing anyone can do about it. Choose something else or politely leave.

Furthermore, don’t order something the company no longer carries and then act baffled when they inform you of that. Our DQ location skipped the hot eats and chose only to serve the cool treats. I can’t even begin to count how many times people would come in seeking hamburgers and act as if their life had ended when we told them we didn’t carry that. I had people swear at me. Others stared silently, at a complete loss for words.

My view from the other side? Don’t shoot the messenger. Your server played no part in deciding what the restaurant would or would not carry that day.

“I’m already nuts enough”

A popular order at the DQ was a good ol’ hot fudge sundae (or strawberry – take your pick). Our next step was to ask if they wanted nuts or whipped topping with it. Nine out of 10 times, customers responded, “No thanks, I’m already nuts enough.”

It wasn’t funny the first time I heard it (mostly because I was so nervous about getting the order right that it didn’t even process as a joke), and it wasn’t funny the last time (mostly because it actually was not funny). Regardless of this, I was still forced to paste a grin on my face as I picked up a sundae bowl, crying with glee “ahaha I bet you are!”

My view from the other side? Be friendly, be polite and order your food. Your goal is to purchase a product – not find your 15 minutes of fame as a comedian.

Believing in the magical powers of employees

She ambles up to the counter, wallet out, friends in tow. “Umm,” she giggles, “Can I have a Blizzard?” …and then she stares at you waiting for a response.

Surprisingly enough, yes. Yes, you are allowed to order off the menu and have a Blizzard. The extensive list of sizes and flavours are mostly just for decoration. If you ask for a Blizzard, I will magically know what kind you want!

My view from the other side? Actually order something. Period.

People who live in their own world

Our store, like most DQs, had two cash registers. Depending on how busy it was, what needed cleaning and how many staff were available, we would sometimes play tag-team and work off of just the one register. People would stand in line behind this till and we would serve them one by one. Follow?

Then Mrs. Lapoo would walk in. She would stand in line, tap her foot, and crane her neck around the people in front of her. She spots the empty register! She looks around at everyone else in line with these eyes that portray how stupid she thinks they all must be, shrugs her shoulders and marches over to the empty cash register. Throwing her purse on the counter, she starts taking out money and boring a hole into your back with her eyes as she waits to be served. Since you are currently in the process of serving 100 other people you’re a bit tied up, but you eventually make eye contact and tell her this is the only register currently open. Her mouth falls open. Her eyes look wild. “Wh..what?” she croaks out in bewilderment. She throws her glance to the lineup as if to say, “Did YOU guys know this is how it worked?!”

Yes lady. They did.

My view from the other side? Follow the crowd. There is usually a reason they are doing things a certain way (and if they’re not, I assure you that someone will tell you before finding out the hard way).

“I want a wa..way..wayfulll?”

In the 2000-somethings, DQ launched the waffle bowl: an ice cream sundae sitting in a bowl made out of waffle rather than plastic.

As someone who has ventured into many different ice cream stores before, I was well aware of the existence of this product they called the “waffle”. For those who hadn’t  I feel confident in saying they had seen it on breakfast menus or in the frozen food section at their local grocery store. At the very least, perhaps they had stumbled across the word “waffle” in the English Dictionary.

All of a sudden (and all at once), the world forgot what a waffle was. People would come in and stare up at the menu, pointing their finger in desperation saying “I’ll have that way…way-full thing?

My view from the other side? Remember that the menu is a compilation of words that you already know. No one is trying to test you.

Photo Credit: anna_t on Flickr

About the author

Leah Ruehlicke works in video production, living in a tiny apartment in Toronto with bad water pressure and an amazing book collection. Follow her on @LeahRuehlicke.