Serving Like an Organization: How Food-Service and Retail Workers Interpret Their Interactions With Customers

Computational Social Science Forum

CSS Training Program

February 8, 2021
12:00pm to 1:30pm
Virtual Participation


Computational Social Science Forum
Date: Monday, February 8, 2021
Time: 12:00-1:30 PM Pacific Time
Location: Register to receive the schedule and access links. 

Serving Like an Organization: How Food-Service and Retail Workers Interpret Their Interactions With Customers 

Speaker: Adam Storer, UC Berkeley Sociology 

Abstract: How do food-service and retail workers interpret interactions with customers? Researchers have identified many novel sociological processes, specific to service work, that seem to pull service workers in opposing directions, leaving them either better or worse off. In this talk, I argue that these opposing processes are not mutually exclusive. Due to the nature of the job, service workers may experience a series of divergent interactions with customers during their job tenure. In order to account for these conflicting experiences, I take an orientations approach - analyzing summative judgments about customers and their associations with job satisfaction. I draw on a novel dataset of over 15,000 job quality evaluations from 10 food-service and retail companies, collected from This website allows workers to post written reviews of the pros and cons of their job, as well as to provide numeric ratings of their job quality. Qualitatively coding a subset of 1,000 reviews, I find that frontline workers express three distinct orientations towards customer interactions: an occupational orientation - where customers are an inescapable occupational hazard or benefit, an organizational orientation - where positive and negative interactions are a result of organizational strategies, or as a source of intrinsic satisfaction. Using computational text analysis, I code the remaining 14,000 reviews to investigate how occupational and organizational orientations towards customers are related to job ratings. I find that an organizational orientation is associated with more extreme ratings of the job.


The Computational Social Science Forum is an informal setting for the interdisciplinary exchange of ideas and scholarship at the intersection of social science and data science. Weekly meetings are hosted by researchers from BIDS and D-Lab, and participants engage in a variety of activities such as presentations of work in progress, discussions and critiques of recent papers, introductions to new tools and methods, discussions around ethics, fairness, inequality, and responsible conduct of research, as well as professional development. We welcome social scientists researchers with interests in data science methods and tools, and data scientists with applications or interests in public policy, social, behavioral, and health sciences. Participants include graduate students, postdocs, staff, and faculty, and members are encouraged to attend regularly in order to foster community around improving computational social science research, supporting the development and research of group members, and fostering new collaborations. This Forum is organized as part of the Computational Social Science Training Program, and interested UC Berkeley community members are invited to use this registration form to receive the schedule and access links. Please contact for more information.


Adam Storer

UC Berkeley Sociology

Adam Storer is a Ph.D. Candidate in Sociology at UC Berkeley. His dissertation, entitled Evaluating Work: How Frontline Foodservice and Retail Workers Evaluate Their Jobs, analyzes the relationship between the objective conditions of frontline foodservice and retail work in the United States, and the criteria workers use to evaluate their experience at work. His work has appeared in American Journal of Sociology, American Sociological Review, and Socio-Economic Review, and has been featured in The New York Times, Bloomberg, Politico, and CNN.