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A Service Industry Manifesto: Tell One Customer a Day to Go Fuck Themselves

Profanity will be the boot we jam into the cogs of minimum wage labor and the only path to universal love.

Hint Hint. Photo via Flickr user Michael Allen Smith.

This article originally appeared on VICE Canada.

A specter is haunting my generation—the specter of the customer. As the economy shrinks into a desperate race between have and have-nots, millions of us rely on precarious service industry jobs where the hours are both limited and inconvenient, where we work Sundays for wages that do not keep up with the cost of living and where we are servants to the whims of the customer who is always right. How many of us swallow our pride as another ruddy-faced early morning commuter demands a coffee as if we are merely a robotic pair of hands instead of a person with dreams and passions? We are a generation whose humanity is drowning in steamed milk and smothered beneath subpar sandwiches—where the desires of the customer who sees us as the end to his wants ignores the humanity that we share. Thus I cry to my fellow service workers—the baristas, the bartenders, the servers, the cashiers—that we must break these chains of the customers. We must tell one of them a day to "Go Fuck Yourself."


Just because the service industry job is not composed of back-breaking labor, dangerous environments, or limb- and mind-destroying repetition and monotony does not mean that there is no suffering amongst those employed in it. The suffering is caused by a multitude of factors. There is the boredom; the feeling that comes sneaking in when there is nothing to be done, nobody to serve, nothing to wipe, that the only real thing that we are doing in these jobs is dying a little bit in a room we don't want to be in. The suffering comes from shame. Shame that seeps into you because the job is easy, boring, and skilless. There is no identity in the service industry job, nothing to be proud of. Though people worked and died in far worse, more horrifying conditions, their struggles and deaths are respected and honored. We who labor behind the steam wand or the bar tap have no such pleasure. Instead we mumble out our day jobs and latch onto our hobbies, passions, and DJ gigs for identity.

Finally the suffering comes at the hands of the customer. Serving the customer is the work that alienates us from ourselves. They are the unceasing assembly line that comes even as our mind fries and our hands ache. Whether a polite person generally interested in others or a rich, douche monster only interested in the emails buzzing his phone, every interaction with a customer is a small death for the server. Because eventually the customer must reveal him or herself. Eventually, no matter if they are concerned with when your band is playing next or if they've noticed your interesting new haircut, the interaction must become a transaction. Eventually, every server must sublimate his or her desires to the desires of the customer. I have to do what you want and it doesn't matter how I feel or what I want or that I think it's childish when adults order a hot chocolate.


It is in this moment, when we in the service industry repress our agency in the service of the customer's desires, where we must rebel. The transactions with the customer are the gears in the factory that we must sabotage, and profanity will be the boot we jam into the cogs. If we are to survive with our souls intact the knowledge/service economy that continues to be built around us, we must speak up. For ourselves, our identity, to remain strong while being battered by orders for ice cream sandwiches and fancy hotdogs, we must reassert our humanity, our freedom. We must remind those who are ordering that we have power, we must speak loudly, we must tell one customer a day to "Go Fuck Yourself."

Profanity is the most expedient tool available to us in this particular battle. The word "fuck" will be our sword, reminding any unsuspecting customer that we are dirty and dangerous, that we have sex and that we really shouldn't be anywhere near the food you want. That we are human beings with all of the dangerous possibilities that that entails. I envision a world where if you are a well-coiffed douchebag who stands in front of the bar not letting others get by while you prattle on, from behind you'll hear a withering "Go Fuck Yourself" that deflates the ego. If you are a precious, rich middle-aged woman, too busy playing with her dog to notice that the cafe is closing in two minutes, a stern "Go Fuck Yourself" will remind you there are others in the world. It does not even have to be aggressive. An amicable, mafioso style "Go Fuck Yourself" is a great gesture for a budding friendship between a empty bookstore clerk and his one lonely customer.

When you work in service, hating your fellow man becomes a knee-jerk reaction. The shame and the annoyances, the dehumanizing effects of dealing with customers results in an internal rage simmering so close to the surface that hating a person becomes the easiest thing in the world. We hate old people for slowly counting change on the counter, we hate young people for giggling with their friends, and we really hate when adults order hot chocolate. We hate parents for having annoying kids and we hate kids for being annoying.

This is why the Go Fuck Yourself Revolution is ultimately about love. Saying "Go Fuck Yourself" is a balm on the hatred, like aloe on a sunburn or weed for a hangover. It will allow customers to see us as people again and will allow us to see customers as people again rather than the hated oppressors. So let it ring out, servers, baristas, cashiers, bartenders, let it bounce off the exposed brick walls, and reclaimed barn wood of the world. Tell one customer a day to "Go Fuck Yourself" so that we may learn to love again.

Follow Jordan Foisy on Twitter or watch him do some standup on YouTube.