either very low or low annual earnings, less than $28,000 per year (Hecker, 2005; see Table 4-1).
Gatta explained that, because many service occupations require little formal education and pay low wages, economic studies often define them a priori as unskilled. In addition, she argued that the Dictionary of Occupational Titles “does not adequately measure or capture the skills in the service occupations” (Attewell, 1990; National Research Council, 1999). To avoid these weaknesses in national datasets, Gatta said, she and her coauthors turned to the case study and ethnographic literature to try to understand the skill demands of service occupations (Gatta, Boushey, and Appelbaum, 2007b). She cautioned that qualitative ethnographic studies provide rich data but use purposive rather than probability samples and investigate small samples of job holders (Sandelowski, 1995).
Gatta noted that a key feature of service work lies in its interaction between the service worker and the customer. She said that some researchers have argued that this interaction can be scripted and rationalized, so that “people are … in essence robots going through their work day” (e.g., Ritzer, 1996). Challenging this argument, Gatta described several studies that have reached quite different conclusions about the nature of service work. First, a seminal study of flight attendants (Hochschild, 1983) found that their jobs included not only serving the customer, but also smiling and conveying a bubbly personality—a form of “emotional labor” that is closely linked to the product being sold. Second, she noted that, although McDonald’s Corporation tries to script and control the interactions of both workers and customers, the company also employs large numbers of supervisors to help counter workers respond to unusual and unpredictable customer demands (Leidner, 1993). Third, Gatta described studies indicating that service workers perform “articulation work,” deploying a blend of emotional, cognitive, technical, and time management skills to quickly solve customer problems (Hampson and Junor, 2005).
In her own ethnographic study (Gatta, 2002), Gatta said, she found that restaurant servers were required to engage and build rapport with multiple customers seated at multiple tables, use micro computers to capture food orders and process credit card payments, and steer customers toward higher priced items without appearing to be manipulative. Another study (Newman, 1999) found that fast food workers were required to listen carefully to customers and communicate effectively with them, send out a rapid stream of instructions to coworkers, check the orders, receive money, and make change.
Gatta said that recent research also illuminates the need for aesthetic skills in many service occupations, including hospitality industry employees, who must have the right appearance and personality, and sales assistants, who must present a fashionable appearance. Luxury hotel workers must