Year of Award


Document Type


Degree Type

Master of Arts (MA)

Degree Name

Social (Inequality and Social Justice Option)

Department or School/College


Committee Chair

Daisy Rooks

Commitee Members

Jacobs Hammond, Joel Iverson


sociology, work and labor, ethnography, service industry, gendered institutions, emotional labor


University of Montana

Subject Categories

Gender and Sexuality | Inequality and Stratification | Work, Economy and Organizations


Montana truck stops act as a meeting place for long-haul truckers, vacationers, local commuters, and the workers simply trying to earn a living. The employees at such truck stops must navigate working-class customer service norms while interacting with a unique and diverse set of customers. The ethnographic and interview data that I collected during the 2020 offers a unique view of how customer service employees fared during political unrest, global health concerns, and financial struggle. Additionally, this study highlights the power dynamics that exist in the service industry by examining how such dynamics manifest in the interactions surrounding face masks, sexual harassment, and unhappy customers. My findings also suggest that interacting with customers can be the source of both connection and frustration, depending on the customers’ moods and behaviors. The qualitative nature of this study allows me to tell the stories of those who are often overlooked in academia and beyond. Although truck stops occupy little space in most people’s day-to-day experiences, the interactions that occur in these workplaces are dynamic, interesting, and sometimes contradictory. My research offers a glimpse not only into the microcosm of truck stops, but also provides valuable insight about society as a whole.



© Copyright 2021 Michelle Elizabeth Williams