Open Doors: Lessons from Service

Posted By on October 3, 2019

            My close friends have heard me say these words many times: “Everyone should have to work as a waiter or in retail for at least six months. It would make for a more understanding world.”

            Serving customers in a restaurant or store is hard work. You’re on your feet, face forward no matter the mood, and that old adage “the customer is always right” presents some interesting challenges. When I see someone abusing this privilege, it makes me cringe and wonder if they would act that way if they had done this type of job during their lifetime.

            My first “real job” came at 14 — the minimum age to acquire a work permit in California. I wanted to have the latest 80s fashions and my mom let me know I was going to need to work for that. The Boston Store (now long gone) was a mini Macy’s in my hometown and it needed a part-time associate. The 16 hour a week commitment provided a paycheck to keep the latest Esprit collection in my closet, and the full-time team was game to train me in all things retail.

            Gift-wrapping baby shower and Mother’s Day gifts let me be crafty; using the register and balancing my drawer required real-life math; and learning how to pierce ears was crazy-fun. By the time my senior year rolled around, I was training the new teenagers coming in to replace me after I left for college.

            Fast-forward to post-college and my plan to take my time to find the right job. I always wanted to work in a restaurant, and my friends gave me a heads-up that California Pizza Kitchen needed a new hostess — the only role I could fill since I didn’t have any waitressing experience. I gave myself one year to have fun, keep up the job search and work at CPK. I went from hostess to hostess trainer to server to server trainer in six months. I had regular customers, celebrity sightings and an amazing, supportive crew of other 20-somethings that liked to hang out together.

            There were days full of issues, cranky customers and even times the computers went down and everything had to be done on paper tickets. The full-time job offer I wanted came the same week I was asked to consider the CPK management training program … and the time was right to move on.

            My new job as an assistant at the American Heart Association was great and I was primed to grow in the position. But I wasn’t feeling like my wardrobe looked like I was ready for the next position on the ladder to success. So I marched into Ann Taylor at Scottsdale Fashion Square, my favorite brand at the time, and was thrilled that they needed weekend help. That meant 40 to 70 percent off their beautiful clothes and helping friends and strangers shop for their career or special occasion wardrobes 10 to 16 hours a week. After one year, I had all of the basics covered and could move on as a former retailer/waitress and apply those skills to everything that was to come my way.

            I’ve learned that companies and organizations can set an expectation for service by attending classes through the Ritz-Carlton Leadership Center, ( where their motto has long been “we are ladies and gentlemen serving ladies and gentlemen.” In today’s fast-paced, make-it-work culture, investing in classes and seminars like these seems like a great way to help those new to a corporate or nonprofit culture become the best that they can be as they navigate the work-life balancing act.  

            Maybe next time you see someone taking out their stress on a waiter or retailer, you’ll take a moment to let that employee know that you see how hard they are working and that they will always benefit from their time of service.


Andrea Tyler Evans

About Andrea Tyler Evans

Andrea Tyler Evans is the Publisher of Frontdoors Media. She can be reached at