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Lessons From an Ice Cream Scooper

Lessons from an Ice Cream Scooper
By Robin Yukiko - March 5, 2013

I worked part time at an ice cream booth on the pier when I first moved to the city. It was fun work for the most part, meeting tourists from all over the world and either thrilling or disappointing them with my sundaes.

There was a co-worker I loved to work with because he was friendly, helpful, and fun. I didn't even know that he was technically my superior because he didn't think it mattered.

After work he always took some leftover coffee to the homeless busker who sat outside drumming for change.

At one point he told me that he knew people at all the restaurants on the pier and they gave him free food because they liked him (only he could sound humble while saying this). I was impressed and wished he would introduce me to these people so I could cash in.

He never got around to it before I left the ice cream business. Nor did I understand his secret at the time.

But as I went on to my next job and started my new routine, I realized I had picked something up. I wasn't asking for free food, but I was making friends. I told people where I worked and we would start talking. I wasn't treating them like my servants because I was one of them, a fellow worker on the strip. Soon they started giving me discounts, free coffee, etc.

I had become my former co-worker. I wasn't doing anything expecting something extra in return (okay, sometimes I asked for the merchant discount, but that usually started a conversation). I was getting to know people, trying to make life more pleasant--for myself and those around me. But it had the side effect of people knowing my name and treating me like I was special.

Most people treat service workers like nonentities. Often, working musicians get treated the same way (you know the old joke that musicians who play benefits get into heaven but have to go through the kitchen?). We should know better. I had to see it in action before internalizing what should have been obvious: treat people with respect and they will remember you, like you, and treat you well.

Make them feel like they made your day and you will make theirs.

In the music business, that kind of attitude is what will make people want to work with you. I would bet my Guild that it's more important than how you sound.

So wherever you go, ask how people's day is going. Put yourself in their shoes and be considerate. Because when you see everyone as human, they will see you too.

Robin Yukiko is a Berklee College of Music grad, singer-songwriter, pianist, and music educator in San Francisco. She performs regularly and hosts the SF Singer-Songwriters’ Workshop at the Musicians Union Local 6. Robin is currently producing her second album and enjoying nerdly pursuits. Join Robin’s mailing list at


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