David Sedaris Catches Heat for Suggesting People Should be Able to Fire Service Workers

The satirist suggests “citizen’s dismissal,” like a citizen’s arrest but for other people’s employees doing a bad job

Last Updated: December 6, 2020 @ 7:37 PM

Acclaimed author and satirical humorist David Sedaris is getting slammed online this weekend after publishing a short video essay for CBS in which he suggests ordinary people like himself should be able to fire service workers who don’t perform to the customer’s standards.

Sedaris framed the idea — which he called “citizen’s dismissal” — as a way to free up jobs for other, more competent people looking for work. But that didn’t exactly translate to the majority of people who read his commentary.

The citizen’s dismissal, Sedaris said, would be “like a citizen’s arrest, but instead of detaining someone, you get to fire them!”

He came up with the idea after a recent series of unpleasant run-ins with service employees. In the most bourgeoisie example of them all, Sedaris wrote that he and his sister, comedian and actress Amy Sedaris, “bought a number of very expensive cups and saucers,” only to find that the person checking them out didn’t offer anything to put them in since the store was (somehow) out of bubble wrap and bags.

Sedaris said he wanted to ask this check-out person, “Do you have a purse? If so, you need to get it and go home. My sister and I are firing you!” He also suggested, half-jokingly, that the person operating the till should have taken off their own socks and underwear to wrap the pricey dishware.

“That’s the kind of person I want to deal with,” Sedaris said. “Someone with solutions.”

The idea that he took time to dunk on essential workers didn’t land well online, considering putting people out of work during a pandemic is just asking for negative karma to drop on your head.  One Twitter user even said Sedaris went “full Karen” in his remarks, comparing him to the term that’s become ubiquitous for describing angry, out of touch white women.

“I love David Sedaris’ writing, and I am very familiar with his sardonic style,” writer Charlotte Clymer tweeted Saturday. “And y’all… this just goes from bad to worse. I was waiting for the punchline or a clever pivot, and it just never came. I have no idea why he thought this was what we needed to hear in this moment.”

A Twitter user named Chris White said he emailed CBS in response to the video. “As a person who works in customer service, David Sedaris’ words could have far reaching, negative impacts on many folks like me,” White said Sunday. “To think, they gave this person a platform to spew his nonsense and not others who truly deserved it.”

Another reader named Shane Barnes commented and asked if Sedaris had heard of Yelp — the online review site that’s dedicated to employee and business feedback. “Brave choice for CBS Sunday Morning to air this lame David Sedaris segment in which he dreams of having the power to fire service people,” Barnes said.

“If anything the David Sedaris thing just reveals the two bubbles,” writer and producer Bridget Phetasy said, though she noted that Sedaris shouldn’t be “canceled” for his comments. “Only people significantly detached from the working class wouldn’t consider that a bit going after service industry workers — an industry that has been ravaged by the pandemic — might not land right now. But no one should be canceled for poorly timed satire, come on now.”

Sedaris definitely wasn’t thinking about the strain that unemployment, salary cuts and furloughs have had on the average American when he sat down to pen his rant about customer service. It’s worth noting that in the federal government’s November jobs report, the Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated it will take up to 40 months for the economy to fully recover from the job losses brought on by the pandemic. Since February, the United States has lost over 9.8 million jobs.

Somewhat ironically, Sedaris just put out an anthology of his work called “The Best of Me” through publisher Little, Brown. The 63-year-old author, who’s known for his writings including “The Santaland Diaries,” “Me Talk Pretty One Day” and “When You Are Engulfed in Flames,” hasn’t yet spoken on the backlash from his recent comments.