These days, everyone is a critic. We write reviews about anything and everything for the chance to get our tiny little voices heard over the world wide web, and restaurant reviews seem to be the write-ups we search for the most. It’s a chance for everyone to get on their soapbox and cry out “I was served an underdone steak!” “The toilet paper in the bathroom was scratchy!” or the oh-so prevalent and damaging, “Our waitress didn’t pay enough attention to us!!”
Let me just cut to the chase, I got a bad online review.
Just before my shift I was called over to have a sit-down with the manager in a corner booth before the Happy Hour crowds descended. The alleged incident happened sometime in April and words like “un-attentive” and “rude” stared back at me as she slid a printed copy of the review over to my side of the table.
My heart immediately sank and my mind began racing through every shift I worked in April to see if I could pinpoint the night, the table or the customers who were so disappointed.
“It happens all the time,” my manager assured me, noticing the sweat start to develop on my brow. “You aren’t the first one working here to get a bad write-up.”
I knew she was right but I felt utterly defeated. Someone felt wronged during their dining experience under my watch, so wronged that they marched home, fired up the computer and let me have it for the rest of the world to see. I was mentioned by name as well, just to add insult to injury.
The review haunted me all night. Every time I went to approach a new table I froze for a second, terrified someone would recognize my name from the write-up. I forced the biggest smile I could, told witty jokes, bent over backwards to accomidate every request and ended my shift feeling more exhausted than ever. Oh, and I was still pretty pissed about the whole thing.
Then it dawned on me, it is exhausting, the whole thing. I thought back to the review and suddenly wasn’t surprised at the comments.
Maybe it happened on the night that my manager decided to get on my case about every mundane detail, or the night when I got in a fight with my boyfriend, or that night I worked a 15-hour shift. Now that I think of it there were probably a million things going on that would make it hard to force a smile and describe my favorite entree. But, it’s my job to be bubbly, personable and attentive. One night I failed at being Suzy Sunshine and now I have this damaging review haunting my every move.
In the end, it’s not the end of the world. Just last night I had a table that was thrilled with their service and said they would make it a point to ask for me if they came back again for dinner. Working in the restaurant industry is roller coaster ride, one moment you’re on top of your game juggling multiple tables and the next your struggling to refill water, forgetting orders and spilling wine down your apron.
No one is perfect and sometimes servers have bad nights, but as long as there are online reviews I am going to do everything in my power to stretch my smile as wide as can be until the last table is gone and I can finally go back to being myself.