The Starbucks Experiment

Friday, April 14, 2006

Forced Smile = Grimace

Last night i had a second interview for a part-time food-service job on the Alaskan railroad run by princess cruise lines. Wait, let's let this sink in for a minute. last night i had a second interview for a part-time food-service job on the Alaska railroad.

if this seems weird to anyone out there, i can assure you that it is a direct result of my taking a job at Starbucks nearly a year ago. the nature of my job at sbux, relatively mind-numbing labor coupled with mandatory cheerfulness, accommodating the personalities of customers and staff, and being generally overworked but under stimulated, have made me unable to continue this job past june. but having worked in the corporate world of forced-friendly food service, i am now only qualified for more jobs in forced-friendly corporate food service.

Enter the Alaskan railroad, a tourist venture run by princess cruise lines that runs roughly from Seward through Anchorage to Fairbanks. it is full of big windows to watch the wildlife, tour guides, and club cars, staffed by friendly servers. my sister Jess, who lives in Anchorage, knew a number of people who had been those friendly servers and really liked the job. the hours are nice because you work long days but get more days off, the people who do it are great, it's beautiful, you learn a lot about Alaska, etc. etc. so i applied online and used Jess's friend's name as a referral. i get an email back, then a call, then we set up a phone interview, then i get another couple calls to schedule another phone interview. did i miss something? is this actually a managerial position disguised as a part-time food-service job?

that's what one might think from the questions. describe how you try to improve your job for your co-workers, describe a problem you have had with a co-worker and how you addressed it. describe a problem you've had with a customer and how you addressed it. what is the most important component of customer service? would you rather work with someone who had perfect performance or a perfect attitude? what do you like most about your job? what do you like least? and on and on. i know these questions are set down by central HR, and i understand that a company in the business of customer service wants to make sure that their employees who work directly with customers will be good ambassadors, but i was sort of hoping that up in the wilds of Alaska people would be more laid back, more realistic. i was hoping they would understand that a forced smile is no smile, it's a grimace.


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