Service with a smile

by Ava Graham

of the Gleaner


Simultaneously balancing a job and high school is a tall task for many students. Grueling hours are put into the school day, practices, homework, and on top of that, an after-school job. 

Sometimes, these long hours are not the most difficult part of having a job. Difficult customers (coined “Karens” by the media) can be one of the most difficult elements of participating in the workforce for many students.

Jamie Vondra ’22, Marco Morel ’22, and Marley Mcswain ’23, pose in the back of Kaladi’s Coffee Bar where they work.

No matter where one works, dealing with problematic customers is a part of having a job. Some people are simply never satisfied with a product or service, despite the most sincere efforts of employees. Natalie Rambousek, ‘22, shares one of her many experiences with rude customers as a cashier at Hy-Vee. 

On this particular day, she was responsible for assisting customers with self-checkout. “There were at least three people who needed help at the same time. I helped this lady first and then went to assist other customers. The lady then proceeded to yell at me because she had more questions than the one she originally asked. She called me ‘rude’ and ‘disrespectful’ and demanded a manager because I walked away too soon.” 

In most scenarios when customers give employees a hard time, it is for something that is completely out of the employee’s control. It is frustrating to not be able to get what you want, but sometimes this frustration can turn into pure rage. Lily Graham, ‘26, worked at Beecher’s Ice Cream over the summer as her first job. 

Her most memorable “Karen” experience involves an invalid gift certificate. “A man came in with his young daughter one afternoon and tried to pay with a gift card that only the old owners accepted. I explained to him that I couldn’t accept it, and he started yelling and swearing at me. He called us ‘thieves’ and ‘criminals’ amongst other choice language. There were other customers in the store, and he caused a huge scene before knocking the dish of ice cream off the counter and storming off with his daughter, who was almost in tears.” 

There is a current shortage of workers at most places due – possibly – to the recent rise in “Karens.” Treating employees with respect and dignity makes for a much more positive experience for both parties. Remaining calm and understanding when an employee makes a mistake can make a significant difference for people just trying to do their job.