Today was an interesting day. My experiences reaffirmed my ideas about class and working in the service industry. For the earlier part of my shift working as a freelance mua, I had to do some “tap dancing”. By tap dancing I mean, providing service to people who made it very obvious that they assumed that I was beneath them and that my sole existence in the store was to provide them with whatever they wanted, quick, fast, and in a hurry, with no regard shown to me for providing them the service.
Im sure folks at this point are asking themselves ” Well how in the hell can she make those assumptions/statements?” Its easy, I have worked in the service industry for long enough in one of the worlds most class conscious, pretentious, educated cities. With those things come a whole lot of class jockeying based on your race/ethnicity, education, number of degrees, occupation, job title, designer handbags, number of designer handbags, circle of friends, neighborhood, wedding or engagement ring, size of the stones, hair style, plastic surgery, etc… Disgusting I know!
One woman that I helped today came in with a child in a super tricked out stroller, lulu lemon attire, and a list of things that she needed. She is what we call the typical stroller mom. She resembled pretty much every other woman that has a child who lives and shops in the area where I worked. That area is considered an expensive area to live and also where “old money” dwells. Any who, the woman was helped by two other people in the store first, and I was not able to pay much attention to her interactions with them. When it came to me, I paid attention like the millions of folks who watch the Kardashian clan’s moves every day. Our interaction was brief, but impactful. I was standing by my brand, and she came over to my unit. I smiled at her, and she asked me if I worked for the brand to which I replied yes. After that, she picked up a pencil eyeliner, then placed it back on the unit. After that she paused. There was a brief moment of awkward silence, then I realized that her picking up the pencil was her way of asking “Excuse me ma’am would you mind grabbing this pencil for me to purchase?”(Ok minus the “excuse me” and the “would you mind” part) Once I translated her language of privilege and class, I asked ” ma’am did you want me to grab that pencil for you?” Of course she replied “yes”, and I had to get myself together. I was disgusted!
I think it is safe for me to say that the reason she felt that she could just point to items or grab items and assume that the people in the store would know exactly what she wanted with them without communicating verbally was because of an assumed class and privilege. I am pretty sure that it was demonstrated to her that when she goes into stores for beauty products, baby products, yoga wear that the people who work there are not human beings but rather robot servants that don’t need to be communicated verbally to. The most unfortunate thing is that she is not alone. I deal with people like her everyday that refuse to speak to me when I greet them and later motion for me to “come here”, and pick up products and tell me to get them, and rush me to get them quickly because they are “in a hurry”.
The truth in all of this is that this behavior happens because many of us “robot servants” need our jobs and often cannot correct the disrespectful behavior displayed by our privileged customers, another truth is that I personally am treated like a “robot servant” because of my race, sex, and gender, and all of the assumptions that go along with the stereotypes associated with those social and biological constructs. I know that these topics are very ugly to face in an industry that is supposed to be so pretty, but these topics deserve to be discussed because race, class, and gender affect everything in this industry whether we discuss these things or not.