Goddess mug shot The Goddess Speaks

Carol Lee Ramie

Customers dump
ire and disdain on
young employees

I recently wrote a column titled "Inspiration can be found in the stories of strangers," in which I talked about not judging people by appearances. I mentioned an insurance claim I investigated concerning a pizza delivery guy who turned out to be a corporate computer genius taking a break from his demanding career. I also talked about my housekeeper who had just written her first novel.

I felt certain that would encourage people to look at individuals beyond stereotypes. So my heart aches as I'm about to type the following words.

My daughter, who just turned 17, got her first job a few months ago. An ice cream store was opening on the Windward side of the island, and it wasn't your standard ice cream store. Not only is the ice cream made fresh daily and selections made to order, the kids sing to their customers when a tip is dropped in the tip jar. What better place for a first job than a cheerful job selling exceptional ice cream to eager customers? And getting to sing, too!

Many people turned out to "audition" for the job. Yes, audition, for this is no ordinary store. Kendra had all the perfect qualities for the position: beautiful, sweet voice, good with people, smart and trainable. She was hired and was excited to start.

Opening night was memorable for my husband and me. Standing in the long line of excited customers waiting to press their lips to the best ice cream in Hawaii, we watched our daughter working for the first time. Her smile, I'm certain, could have lit up the sky that night, and our hearts could have melted the ice cream.

BUT ONE NIGHT, after her work shift ended, my daughter and I talked until 2 in the morning. We decided that she will be putting in her two weeks' notice to this wonderful ice cream store she adores working at and where she has bonded with her co-workers.

Kendra is an enthusiastic young woman, articulate and mature beyond her years. She is intelligent and has high standards for herself. She plans to major in sports medicine in college. She gets along with most everyone.

But sadly, as my daughter expressed with inconsolable emotions, on too many occasions she endured verbal assaults from customers because, as she says, "We just work at an ice cream store and don't know anything. They treat us like morons, like we're stupid, because in their eyes we only scoop ice cream."

She has been yelled at and talked down to for circumstances beyond her control like waiting too long (people love the ice cream and the lines haven't stopped); about the prices being too high (making fresh ice cream with the finest ingredients is expensive); not doing their jobs right (delivering the wrong order when customers watch it being made and say nothing until it's handed over, then demand another one).

Kendra has impressed others by her ability to handle these difficult situations with patience and kindness. Some customers who have witnessed these incidents have called the managers to compliment Kendra on her handling of these trying customers, but dealing with such difficult people has taken its toll on her to a point where I feel I must intervene.

Becoming a senior in high school is a monumental time in a child's life. I want her to remember this year in a positive, joyful way. I don't want to expose her to negative people and the dark clouds they cast all around them. She has the rest of her life to experience that, but no, not right now.

I am not worried about her "quitting." I learned a long time ago that we don't always have to finish what we start when it's not healthy for us.

It is a sad fact that some people treat others according to the "uniforms" they wear. To some, Kendra and her co-workers might "just work at an ice cream shop," but these young people deserve praise. They work hard at what they do. While mixing up your special orders, their hearts and minds are stirring with hopes and dreams.

Next time you see a young person working behind a counter, tell them they're doing a good job and thank them. Our young people need all the encouragement they can get. Not only do we need to look beyond the surface to see who people really are, but who they are striving to be and yet to become.

Carol Lee Ramie runs Island Investigative Services with her husband.

The Goddess Speaks is a feature column by and
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