Competing with Monsters and Serving the Entitled

October 25, 2013 in Blog, Small Business Perspective

Starting your own business in the service industry may seem like the ultimate pursuit of happiness for some people. Starting with little capital, the food service industry tends to attract many first time entrepreneurs. Meanwhile, experienced entrepreneurs are finding more success and enjoyment in industries that employ fewer laborers or more highly specialized laborers.

My experience in the restaurant delivery industry was more than a struggle, it was unsettling. The challenge was exciting but it consumed all my free time. I did well but at great personal costs. I alienated friends. I wasn’t there for my family when they needed me. It seemed like everyone I cared about was continually disappointed despite achieving great business growth and my good nature. This was a minor burden compared to the frustrations trying to serve the public.

I had worked in the service industry for years but not in this particular way. I was shocked by how entitled customers behaved. Big businesses are always telling them the customer is always right; as a result, we now have too many people with unrealistic expectations and total lack of respect for service staff or the struggles of the small business owner.

Employing low wage workers was no joy either. I had some great staff but the majority of these workers were careless, dumb, or complained constantly. I also had to work with annoyed impatient waiters for hours every day. Our drivers picked up orders from restaurants and depended on their staff to take the orders. I worked closely with dozens of restaurants, disgruntled underpaid cooks and all. The restaurant industry is a disorganized dirty mess. Half of the restaurants gave the other half a bad name.

Any entrepreneur that enters into this industry with very little capital and survives deserves a medal. You must be able to handle constant rejection without discouragement; you’re a constant salesman and problem solver on all fronts. Everyone depends on you but undervalues your work. It’s quite a responsibility, especially for the risk involved.

A few years ago, the owner of a well-known chain sub shop that I worked with killed himself. He was young, nice, honest, outgoing, fit, extremely hard working, and successful. I never found out exactly why he did it. Maybe, too much pressure, too much work, too little respect, loss of faith in society/consumers? Another man that owned a local restaurant, along with his wife, beat her to death. They were always screaming at each other. Their kids worked with them and we’re left without parents. I watched married couples buy restaurants together then divorce and close down. I watched people risk everything on a restaurant and come out bankrupt. I worked with these people every day, we fought the same battles. Their stresses were projected in all directions, making my struggle perpetually greater.

You wouldn’t believe how rude some customers can be; every day I’d talk to one person who would ruin my faith in the humanity. I’d want to rage/cry. The ignorance and hostility of the lowest income Americans were frightening. There was no common courtesy, no thank you, no respect for anything in life, only selfishness. They took all my humanity. Constant credit card theft hurt the small profits I kept those first few years. The low-income areas were a drain on my business. These areas need business growth the most but are also the areas that are nearly impossible to do business. It was clear that our form of capitalism isn’t working for everyone.

In the end, my biggest competitor in the marketplace stole over a million dollars from their partnering restaurants and their own customers’ credit cards. He was an awful businessman, competing over the same markets was an awful experience. I even had a friend of a friend that leaked all of my business and strategy information to their boyfriend, who then started a competing company.

I saw the worst of people and was continually disappointed in humanity. I’m not sure if capitalism creates all these monsters or enables them, but it definitely prevents good people from pursuing both happiness and financial security. I am so glad to be free from the bad people and the stresses that ruined so many lives, my life being one of them. I had a small stroke last year, more from the physical stress of some ongoing injuries than from all of this emotional abuse; physically and emotionally there was no joy in my life. So, I started a new life.

I went through a process called “Post Traumatic Growth.” Now, I treat my body and mind like a temple. I appreciate every day like it’s my last. I don’t fight. I take flight. I avoid emotionally unstable people. I’m tolerant to ignorance. I try to ignore the cancers of our society. I do not take too much worth in money or materials. I look for the good in people. I studied behavior. I studied western medicine. I studied eastern medicine. I balanced my body. I freed my emotions. I meditate. I have a mantra. I express thanks. I love life.