Early Jobs 2; The Customer Always Sucks


It sucks having a job that relies on the great unwashed to tip you. Some customers make it easy to be nice and others make it a daily life and death struggle.

Somewhere in my college days, I found the perfect job for someone who simply cannot suffer fools lightly.

The Original Hot Dog Shop (now closed), or the Dirty ‘O’, as locals called it, was a pillar of the community. It was old, large, cheap, and the only game in town after 2:00 AM.

The place was 3 stories, shaped like the letter ‘O’. It served all kinds of fast food from hot dogs to pizza, fries and more. The best part was that after sun went down the place was the Wild West and as a consequence benefit, nobody cared how you treated the customer. If the customer sucks, so be it.

Allow me to paint you a picture.

It 2:00 AM, all the bars in the entire city have shut down, but you are not ready to end your night. Where should we go? Why I think the ‘O’ is still open. So like a real life Night of the Living Dead, every drunk for 20 blocks would stagger towards the doors of the almost always open ‘O’.

There were no lines, a counter separated you, the faithful hot doggeteer, from the teeming sweaty hoards all waving around their crumpled dollars. Whoever made the most noise got served next. When they said ‘Fuck You’, you said ‘Fuck You’ right back. No fries for you, next! You were loved one moment and hated the next.

It was always hot, it was always busy, but it was always kinda fun.

For those who think this sounds like an exaggeration, let me provide some detail to make you raise your eyebrows. Every night the police parked at least 2 and sometimes 4 squad cars across the street and just waited.

Inside were at least 2 off duty officers, paid under the table in cash and all the hot dogs they could eat. They were at our beckon call and happy to oblige.

When the shit went down, and Oh brother did it go down. The first thing that happened was the employees went to the doors and locked everybody in. You heard, not kicked everybody out, but locked them all in. Otherwise everybody would try to get in and loot the place. If you acted up, you were going downtown.

Fights were common, but so was clearing millions and millions of dollars a year, so everyone made exceptions.

A real assortment of characters worked there and they went through employees quick. Burned right through em.

The place was so nasty (a reflection of its clientele not its employees) that the bathrooms in the basement were of a peculiar design I had not seen before. They were one piece metal rooms with metal everything from the toilet to the sink to the mirror.

Why you ask? Cause at 5 in the morning, you could not pay a human being enough money to go and clean it. Remember, the customer sucks. No, you simply turned on a hose and strayed everything down until the condoms and whatever else(we also sold alcohol) washed down the floor drain.

I got paid well ($10 an hour – twice the minimum wage then) and paid every week. Plus two 8pm-8am shifts and I had 24 hours for the week while I was studying. Plus I got to be nice or be a dick as the situation called for and that kind of employee freedom is worth more than money.

P.S. How do you explain it to the kids these days that you had to stand in line at the bank with your paycheck. That you had to decide how much to keep in cash and how much to deposit so you could write checks. Adulting was so much harder back then.

This post is part of a series about ‘Early Jobs’;


10 thoughts on “Early Jobs 2; The Customer Always Sucks

  1. Another great story. You have painted a very vivid picture. It must have been a very rewarding experience on both financial and philosophical level. I bet it provided some life lessons beyond the scope of this post.
    Looking forward to next episode.

  2. i love those type of joints. ours was dirty john’s, otherwise known as new way lunch. dirt sticks (hot dogs) were 50 cents AND you could buy a 6 pack of gennesee to go.

    having leeway with customers is pure gold. i was a bartender at a nice hotel lobby bar in new orleans and mostly loved the job and fringe benefits. the sugar bowl crown from virginia tech one year was brutal, though. these blacksburg wangs must have never left town for good reason. i asked one guy who walked in “how you doing?” and his reply was “coors light.” it was said this that redneck drawl so it sounded like “kerrrrrrs light.” i just gave him his beer and my 25 or 50 cent tip and made him uncomfortable enough that he didn’t want to ever come back. i had one great boss who authorized overcharging non-tippers or pains in the a$$ to get them to leave. now i’m going to have a good day just remembering that.

  3. You have certainly quite the colorful job history 🙂

    Man that place does sound like the wild wild west. Sounds like the inspiration for the Soup Nazi on Seinfeld (and later Dicks Last Resort)

  4. Did the health department ever shut the place down? Or was this a known eat-at-your-own-risk type place? Guessing that the one-piece metal bathrooms were from a prison supply house.

    • I don’t recall ever having a health department issue, but there was a lot of cash to throw around. I remember the owners offered 10 million cash(1990’s dollars) for the building and the eccentric old lady who owned it said ‘no thank you’.

  5. The idea of having a job where you don’t have to be polite to customers is definitely appealing. I’ve found as I’ve got older though that I now just treat everyone largely the same whether that’s at work or in my personal life. I don’t have the energy or the intellectual horse power to keep different personalities going.

    It turns out that my default is to be generally polite, calm and firm. I don’t allow someone telling me screw myself to ruffle me whether that’s a random driver, a friend or a customer (not that it happens very often of course…!)

    • And as a bonus, being polite to someone who obviously wants to be difficult usually makes that person extra frustrated

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