Working as a barista at a resort in Southern California has been a challenge to say the least. On top having to remind customers to wear their mask inside every day, I also have to tell them we can't accept cash payments and we can't give them taste tests of our gelato. Honestly, if I were tipped a dollar for every time I've had to reiterate our COVID policies to customers, I'd be retired at 21 and vacationing with J-Lo and Ben Affleck in the Hamptons. Of course, this is unrealistic since the people who get frustrated with the safety protocol usually don't tip.
The resort shut down last year at the beginning of the pandemic, and only recently reopened to full capacity. This summer, an unprecedented number of guests have checked in from all over the world. Our little café served over 2,000 people in June, more than double the amount resort managers had anticipated.
It's surreal to see so many people on holiday. If you told me in January that in six months I'd be scooping gelato for a sunburned family wearing Target's swim collection, or opening Heinekens for a big group of groomsmen in three piece suits, I wouldn't believe you. Even now, I still can't fathom how quickly things have shifted.
People expect everything to be normal because they're on an actual holiday after being stuck inside for over a year. I get it. We're all tired of being extra cautious all the time, and your time off is supposed to be an escape. But for employees in the understaffed service industry, that's just not our reality.
We aren't allowed to relax because we're trained to operate under strict COVID guidelines. In my resort's case, these regulations are the only thing we pretty much know for sure because we didn't have time for actual barista training. So yes, there has been some confusion behind the bar when someone has asked for a "dry" drink. But we all know, without a doubt, that if a customer returns an unopened salad because they no longer want it, we can't resell it.
Right now, this is definitely the hardest part of working in the service industry. Not only do we have to learn the job and serve way more people than our staff can handle, we also have to memorize and enforce a ton of COVID protocol to unaware customers. Needless to say, it's very tiring to constantly repeat these rules, and it's especially awful when customers push back.
"Not only do we have to learn the job and serve way more people than our staff can handle, we also have to memorize and enforce a ton of COVID protocol to unaware customers."
During a particularly busy day, a man tried to pay for his order with cash. When the barista on register told him about our cash-free protocol, he began arguing with the barista and demanded to speak to our manager. Of course, the manager only repeated what the barista had said. Eventually the man left after he was given a free coffee, but that didn't change the fact that his arguing only held up the line, frustrating customers even more. If he had only paid attention to the cashless sign that he, ironically enough, pushed aside as he was stomping out of the store, none of this would've happened.
While we do have hiccups like this disgruntled customer, things are slowly getting better. Since June, more part-time and full-time employees have been hired. However, many of us part-time workers are being scheduled 38-hour work weeks to meet demand. Not to mention, most of us are leaving at the end of summer to go back to college. This essentially means the resort café will be back to where it was in June — extremely understaffed.
So, if you're on holiday, brush up on the hotel's COVID policies and be patient with the employees. It will make your experience better and our lives a little easier. And, as always, tips are much appreciated.