I was 19 years old when I got my first job. The Dunkin Donuts up the street. I worked there full-time and then part-time for three and a half years. My favorite part was the people. Interacting with them has been my window into life at all its stages. I saw young customers grow into teenagers, I saw customers get pregnant and have children, change jobs and grieve deaths, get cancer and beat cancer, grow old and become grandparents, and go through countless other life events, all right in front of my counter.
My multiple years at a minimum wage job aren’t exactly an achievement but when I look at it from a different angle I can see its value. All the hours spent there have introduced me to people from all walks of life. I’ve met the nice ones and the crazy ones, the sweet one and the rude ones.
Even if I hated waking up for the six o’clock morning shift or walking in the rain and snow to get to work, looking back, it doesn’t seem all that bad. Yes, there were hard times, long hours on my feet, too many disgusting bathroom cleanups, creepy customers (I had a stalker for a few weeks) and annoying, lazy coworkers but in the end you kinda forget about all that, or you at least learn to laugh about it.
Dunkin has given me so many stories, memories, friends, life lessons, and “firsts”. You may laugh but I was so comfortable at Dunkin and always felt at home there, everything and everyone was familiar, predictable. When you don’t leave a place for basically four years, you end up getting attached to your “work family.”
Here are a few observations from the job:
1. People always complained about prices. And it doesn’t make sense but sometimes the ones complaining were the same people who came to the store every single day. Old habits die hard and those people would stick with their Dunkin treats no matter how much they had to begrudgingly pay.
2. We used up a lot of cardboard and paper. A lot. You should have seen the storage space in the basement. It was full of cardboard boxes. It just made me think of all the hundreds of Dunkin stores across the country all with the same cardboard graveyard in their storage spaces. Really makes you think about the forests we’re cutting down so that we can ship boxes of pumpkin syrup to coffee stores.
And whether or not a customer wanted a receipt, the register was programmed so that a receipt would always print. The “wise guy” customers liked to say “I don’t need it. Save a tree.” Well, the tree is already dead, genius.
3. People are rude. Like really rude. It used to ruin my day but I always tried to shake it off (God, Taylor Swift is everywhere). Their negative energy was so strong and it always left a bitter taste in my mouth especially when they had no logical reason for their mini fit in a store full of customers. Rude customers were just one face in a hundred I would see that day so the sooner I forgot about them the better it was for my sanity.
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When I hung up my apron and walked away from the store for the last time as an employee, I felt nothing but appreciation. Working in customer service and the food industry only makes you better understand and appreciate how hard it is to have to pay your dues, suck it up and make a less-than-stellar situation into a learning and growing experience.